CONCORD, NH — Home cultivation and post-traumatic stress disorder are both out of New Hampshire’s pending medical marijuana law — for now.
In a negotiation session between both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature Tuesday, House lawmakers agreed to drop the home-grown provision, in exchange for having an oversight commission start work as soon as the bill is enacted.
They also agreed to not include post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying medical condition.
The two chambers much negotiate a compromise between the two versions of House Bill 573, which the legislature has already voted to pass. But because of amendments in the Senate to make the bill more appealing to Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), lawmakers must agree on the final language of the bill before the legislative session ends on Thursday.
Now, despite the loss of home cultivation and PTSD as a qualifying condition, medical marijuana is closer to becoming a reality in the Granite State, the only state in New England that does not currently allow the medical use of marijuana.
New Hampshire State Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright, one of the co-sponsors of House Bill 573, says that what is most important is the immediate access of medical marijuana to patients, like his wife Cindy, who suffers from breast cancer.
Rep. Wright, who was in favor of home cultivation to allow immediate access to medical marijuana for patients, says that without Tuesday’s compromise, lawmakers would be “back at square one, without anything to build from.”
If the legislature failed to reach a compromise, it would likely be another two years before the legislature would revisit medical marijuana legalization in New Hampshire.
“We will most likely have a law that will allow the therapeutic use of cannabis, and that’s the bottom line for now,” Rep. Wright wrote to The Daily Chronic.
Meanwhile, Rep. Wright says he is working on legislation to be filed in the fall to address home cultivation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other issues with the law as passed.
But the Senate version was watered down, stripped of home cultivation of marijuana by patients, the removal of PTSD as a qualifying condition, reduced number of dispensaries allowed state-wide, and added a requirement that patients get written permission from a property owner before being able to use medical marijuana on privately owned land.
As adopted by the House, the medical marijuana bill would have authorized five state licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, while allowing patients or their caregivers to grow up to three plants at home. The Senate version reduced the number of dispensaries to four state-wide, while stripping patients of the ability to grow their own medicine, even while the awaiting the dispensary program to be implemented.
Advocates fear that under the Senate version of the bill, terminally ill patients would continue to suffer without immediate access to medical marijuana.
“Let the patients grow their three plants,” said Hardy Macia, a former Libertarian candidate for Congress in New Hampshire’s 2nd District, in a video recorded from his hospital bed while undergoing treatment for lymphoma. “It’s not going to affect the market share of marijuana on the market here in New Hampshire because people can get it regardless. Think about the people, think about the patients, ignore the police unions. You really need to do this for the state.”
The Senate changes to the bill were made to alleviate concerns of Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), who has said she supports medical marijuana legislation, but shares the fears of law enforcement officials who say that allowing patients to grow their own could result in diversion of marijuana to the recreational market and make law enforcement’s job more difficult.
Hassan even called several lawmakers prior to the vote in May to make clear she wouldn’t sign a medical marijuana bill with a home-grow provision. Hassan prefers a dispensary-only option, similar to Massachusetts’ recently enacted law, despite having voted in favor of a medical marijuana bill that included home cultivation as a state senator in 2009. That bill was eventually vetoed by then-Governor John Lynch.